When is the best time to post on social media?

One of the challenges of social media is that if you blink, chances are you’ve missed it. There is only a small window of opportunity to get your message in front of your target audience. If you’ve ever wondered when you should be posting content, then wonder no more - Fannit.com has created an infographic highlighting the best and worst times to post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and your blog. 

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PR stunts: Does it pay to be an April Fool?

I remember coming home from school one day and switching on Newsround to find the presenter talking about a new ride at a theme park. They were going to build a rollercoaster, which went underwater and there would be SHARKS SWIMMING AROUND YOU. I was both shocked and thrilled by just how dangerous it sounded. This was the most amazing ride I had ever heard of.

My mum had to explain to me that no, they weren’t going to be putting visitors’ lives at risk by dunking them into shark infested water, it was in fact an April Fools’ joke. WHAT?! BUT IT’S ON THE NEWS. THE NEWS PEOPLE WOULDN’T LIE TO YOU. LOOK – THEY EVEN HAVE PICTURES OF WHAT IT’S GOING TO LOOK LIKE!! (Yes, I was a gullible child.)

Over the years, brands and businesses have been increasingly jumping on the April Fools’ bandwagon – and this year has been no different. From a ban on selfies to an edible pizza box, the media has been full of unbelievable headlines. But why do businesses pull these pranks on us?

It shows personality: Boring, faceless, money-grabbing corporations don’t interest consumers. But if businesses can make us smile and show they can have a bit of fun, it helps to humanise them. We warm to them in ways which could, perhaps, make us more susceptible to future marketing messages.

It reinforces key messages: While April Fools’ PR stunts are made up for laughs, they can often reinforce brands’ key messages. Take BMW, for example. This year it released the BMW ZZZ Series cot, where babies are lulled to sleep thanks to the humming engine, and last year it launched a Royal Baby-inspired pram. Although completely fabricated, these news stories have connotations with quality manufacturing and luxury products we aspire to own.

It is expected: Just as we expect the big retailers to go all out with their Christmas adverts, we have now grown to expect businesses to try and pull the wool over our eyes when 1st April comes around. And businesses know this; they seem to try and get away with bigger and better jokes and pranks to amuse and entertain us.

It gets us talking: Businesses want to be talked about, they want people to know their name and what products or services they offer. Effective PR stunts can bring the brand in question to the attention of its target audience and get them talking.

Jonathan Yeo at the Lowry

Over the weekend, me and my trusty clan (my fiancé and our baby Charlie) braved the temperamental Manchester weather for a wander around Salford Quays and a trip to the Lowry.

The Lowry

The gallery currently has a Jonathan Yeo exhibition on. I didn’t know much about the British artist before, but was immediately impressed as soon as I was greeted by his large Damien Hirst portrait on entering the gallery.

Celebrities, politicians, fellow artists and loved ones are the subjects of Yeo’s paintings, drawings and studies. A particular favourite was a portrait of George Bush. From afar it looked like a cubist-inspired painting, but on closer inspection we realised it was created with cut outs from top shelf magazines (cue sniggers from us mature art critics…). Titters aside, we couldn’t quite get our heads around how effectively it had been created – definitely worth a look if you’re there.

George Bush

The exhibition is until 29 June and you can check out some of Yeo’s work and his subjects on the Lowry’s Flickr page.

Infographic: Social media comparison

A nifty infographic has been doing the rounds online recently, outlining six of the most popular social media channels, their advantages and how they can be used. It was created by Leverage New Age Media, appearing on its blog in December 2013. While it doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail of each channel, it’s a great snapshot for anyone looking for top line information and a basic comparison of Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Social infographic 2

TEDx Manchester; something to think about

On Sunday morning I was up bright and early to go to the TEDx Manchester event. There were 16 speakers lined up throughout the day who covered a variety of topics ranging from the importance of creative writing for children to how to make a fortune with stocks and shares.

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For those of you not familiar with TED – it is a not for profit organisation which is “devoted to ideas worth spreading” and stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It was set up 30 years ago and the principle behind TED is to invite experts and professionals from a variety of fields to talk to an audience for 18 minutes or less on their chosen subject. There are some fab TED talks available to watch on the website, and there is also a podcast as well.

TED has evolved over the years and now all over the world there are TEDx groups and events, with the ‘x’ standing for “independently organised”.

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During the morning session which I attended, my favourite speaker was Hannah Mosley; a Manchester tattooist who told us about how an interview she gave to a tabloid journalist was intentionally misconstrued to fit the journalist’s own agenda. The main message behind Hannah’s talk was that we need to remember to have a critical (and cynical) eye and ear when consuming media; why is the person in the story being portrayed in a certain way? How is the journalist trying to make me feel? What are they attempting to make me think?

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While the idea that the media greatly influences what and how we think isn’t a new concept, Hannah’s account of her own experience gave it a fresh feel and reinforced the importance of keeping an open mind and questioning how information is presented to us.

As someone who is trained in journalism and has worked in PR for six years, I like to think I have just the right level of scepticism when it comes to consuming information from the media, but on a regular basis I find myself saying in conversation: “Well I read an article on X, Y and Z and it said such and such, so this means blah blah blah (and also that I’m a five minute expert on a topic I actually know zero about)”. So it was a welcome reminder from Hannah, and an enjoyable 18 minute talk.

140 character creations – how to take inspiration from Twitter

Where do you get your inspiration from? Sat on an early morning train going to work? Walking through the woods with your dog? Listening to a thought-provoking interview on the radio? Or what about perusing your Twitter timeline?

Buzzfeed introduced me to @DrawnYourTweet – an anonymous tweeter who illustrates people’s tweets. From gravity beds to Mr Potato Head’s derrière, the sketches show a variety of topics, events and random thoughts in a quirky way.

Insp 1

 

Insp 2

 

Insp 3

 

But this isn’t the first artist to take inspiration from Twitter. 

The Tumblr feed, Twitter: The Comic, pulls together comic strips created from tweets. It’s organised by @VectorBelly, who also illustrates some of the comics, and contains images from other artists too.

Insp 6

Insp 7

As well as creative bods taking inspiration from various 140 character posts, businesses have also looked to the social network to find ways to generate original content to share with their online communities.

In February 2011, Orange ran a Valentine’s Day campaign, Isn’t it Tweet, where followers of @orangethefeed were invited to tweet their love story. The 140 characters were then turned into a unique animation by artists Tim Judd and Ed Barrett. I tweeted my love story and here is the final result:

Have these ideas got your creative juices flowing? How could you use Twitter as a source of inspiration?

Facebook has grown up, and so have we

Facebook is ten today! Happy birthday social network site.

I was at university when Facebook crept into our lives. It was the ultimate student distraction tool. Hours were wasted in the library penning witty status updates and giving classmates a virtual poke when we were supposed to be completing essays. But the way me and my peers use the social network has changed over the last decade. Just as Facebook has been growing up, so have we.

There will be some cold hard stats out there to show how users’ behaviour has evolved, but this is what I have observed among me and my 424 friends…

Facebook

We’re not as popular: When Facebook first came along, it made us slutty. We would befriend anyone and everyone. A night out or trip to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk wouldn’t be complete unless you had gained at least five new ‘friends’. At my most promiscuous, I had over 700 people in my Facebook network. But over the last few years, I’ve slowly been decluttering.

Haven’t spoken to you in real life since primary school? Unfriended. Fed up of your racist status updates? Unfriended. Don’t recognise you from your photos or have any recollection of how we fleetingly met? Unfriended. Never even liked you when we did spend time together? Unfriended.

Who needs conversations when you've got Facebook?

Who needs conversations when you’ve got Facebook?

We’re better behaved: Sex, drugs and rock n roll (or electro/indie/hip hop/dubstep* delete as appropriate) may be lots of fun, but at least two of these activities don’t make for suitable anecdotes to brag about online. When social media first started to take over our lives, we were more flippant with our comments and updates. We naively presumed that it was only our peers who would see and enjoy our ‘bants’.

But we’ve became more street wise to our virtual behaviour, and most of us have cleaned up our online act. For some reason, I don’t think many of us ‘got’ that if you posted something on the internet, aka the world wide web, then the, er, whole world can see it. Whether it’s a potential employer or your granny – there are certain people who just don’t need to know certain things about your life.

We’re on the move: Remember when you used to own a digital camera, and you would go on a night out or a holiday and take loads of photos, then come back, plug your camera into your computer and upload an actual album onto Facebook? How prehistoric were we?? Nobody does that anymore. Thanks to smartphones, our photos, videos, updates, and check-ins are much more instant, giving our online networks an instant snapshot of what is going on in our lives.

Blurry selfie in the mirror before the term 'selfie' even existed (and with an actual digital camera, no less)

Blurry ‘selfie’ in the mirror before the term even existed (and with an actual digital camera, no less)

We’re more powerful: From memes and gifs to Buzzfeed quizzes and blooper videos, there are still plenty of lolz to be had on Facebook. But we’ve also started to realise it can be a powerful tool for change.

Last year, one of our uni mates, Kieron Bryan, was charged with piracy by the Russian authorities when he was working as freelance journalist for Greenpeace. Some of Kieron’s nearest and dearest set up Facebook groups, websites, Twitter accounts and online petitions in an attempt to draw attention to what was going on. The Free Kieron campaign received support from politicians and influential media bods, and helped result in his release. 

We’re thinking about leaving: A lot of my friends have flirted with the idea of leaving Facebook. Some have even deleted their accounts (although most have come crawling back…). Bored of people’s mundane updates, annoyed at all the spammy ads and fed up of being a slave to something that doesn’t give you much back, I can see why some may want to cut ties with it. For me though, it’s still the easiest way to keep in touch with friends. Whether we’re organising an event or want to keep up to date with each others’ new job/baby/marriage/house/travelling expedition, Facebook is still (for now) the quickest and most straightforward way to keep in contact.

Teaching my baby a thing or two about PR

A friend of mine manages the PR for Venture Photography and was on the look out for babies aged six months and under to be involved in “a cute photo project”. Intrigued, I got in touch to see what it was all about. In celebration of National Storytelling Week, the photo studio wanted to take snaps of little ‘uns dressed up as some of the nation’s favourite characters. It sounded a bit of fun so I signed my four month old, Charlie, up for it.

We went along to a studio in Winsford last week where we were handed some bear ears and shown to some pots of honey. Here are some behind the scenes pictures from the day…

Charlie 1

 

Charlie 2

 

Charlie 3

Several photos from the day were used and sent to media outlets across the country, achieving coverage in the likes of the Daily Mail, the Mirror, Buzzfeed and Closer.

And yes, I’m aware that Charlie will no doubt hate me for this when he’s older – but it’s payback for all the sleepless nights he’s been giving me lately…!

When PR stunts go wrong

Coming up with creative ideas to get your clients in the media is, for me, one of the most fun parts of working in PR. Good ideas can generate fantastic coverage and help boost a company’s reputation – and you don’t necessarily need huge budgets to execute them effectively.

But from time to time, a PR stunt or story comes along which has drawn attention to a company for all the wrong reasons…

Superdrug scales

This week, Superdrug made headlines after launching its controversial ‘celebrity weight scales’. The product, which compares the user’s weight to the likes of Beyonce, Kate Middleton, Cheryl Cole and Adele, has been heavily criticised by the eating disorder charity, Beat. And even the celebs themselves have taken to social media to slam the product, forcing Superdrug to backtrack on its idea.

cheryl cole

So what other PR stunt have gone wrong in the past?

LG event turns violent: When LG released 100 helium balloons – each containing a voucher for a smartphone – in a park in South Korea, the stunt took a violent turn for the worse. People arrived armed with knives and BB guns in a bid to try and grab the vouchers, resulting in a number of casualties.

A wee for a Wii: A Californian mother of three died of water intoxification after taking part in a radio station’s ‘Hold your wee for a Wii’ competition, where participants were challenged to drink as much water as they could without going to the toilet to win a games console.

Luck of the Irish: From charging to go to the loo to making pilots fly slower to save fuel, Ryanair’s unusual announcements often get slammed in the media. But far from ruining the airline’s reputation and profits, this controversial marketing ploy appears to actually help the company. Speaking to Marketing, Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary said: “Short of committing murder, negative publicity sells more seats than positive publicity.”

Currently trying out the Blogger Outreach programme.

Wedding want: Time-lapse video

I’m currently in wedding planning mode, and I’ve just come across this fab idea for a time-lapse wedding video on Stylist. Wedding want!